Posted on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015
Although this years chicks are almost ready to go to the release sites for the next stage of their soft release into the wild, July is a hectic time for the project.
One of the enjoyable tasks is getting back onto the three reserve areas ( 10 hectares each ) which the GBG leases and manages for the Bustards. The reserves are left alone during the breeding season to allow the Great Bustards and others to breed undisturbed. The spectacle of the “others” almost equals the pleasure of seeing Great Bustards breed in the wild. Stone Curlews, Quail, Corn Bunting and Grey Partridge all breed in the GBG reserve plots, and species like Sky Lark seem to do so in great numbers.
Over the summer the vegetation climbs upwards and does, over time lose its attractiveness to species like the Great Bustard and the Stone Curlew. We delay any mowing until we are sure any chicks are big enough to fly away, and where appropriate we will walk an area, or even clear it using gun dogs to check it is safe to put the tractor through it.
Taking the GBG’s tractor and mower through a thick, tall mass of weeds, thistles and wild flowers brings mixed feelings. Although past their best, the flowers look wonderful, and are still used by bees and other insects. Once mown, or topped, sites which may not have had any use by Great Bustards for several weeks are suddenly hosting groups of Great Bustards – often arriving the day after mowing was undertaken. We get used to Kites and Buzzards following our tractor, hoping for some bird or mammal casualty mown, plough or harrowed to injury or death which they can feed upon. The speed with which these scavengers and hunters will appear once agricultural operations get underway is well known. It seems that the Great Bustards also have an effective system of keeping their eye on the GBG reserve sites, and must be flying over, or checking the condition of these sites more regulalry then we appreciate.
The GBG is proud to commit resources to these reserve areas and not, as so many organisations do, giving priority to smart offices and large infra structure budgets. The effective management of the reserves benefits Great Bustards, but many other species which also need areas spared the intrusion of intensive farming and other disturbance.
With this years reared chicks nearing the release stage, it is very satisfying to watch a wild bred chick taking to the skys over south Wiltshire. The number of breeding age females will be significantly higher next year, and we may expect more wild chicks, but the thrill of seeing them will not wear thin.
Categories: Great Bustards